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Authors: David McIntee

Tags: #We will Destroy your Planet: An Alien’s Guide to Conquering the Earth

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V
(1984): This event miniseries intended to lure audiences away from the Los Angeles Olympics changed the direction of all on-screen alien invasions. Gone were the days of stealthy UFOs being seen by characters who would never be believed, or aliens infiltrating by stealth. In
V
, spectacle was the order of the day, as the Visitors parked their motherships above major cities, and began to announce that they had come to help. In reality, of course, they were lizards intending to steal the Earth's water, and use humans for food.

The series covered various themes – the Holocaust, fascism, use of humans as cattle, action-adventure, interspecies attraction, factions within the aliens who preferred Earth's ways, you name it. It picked and chose from the themes and tropes seen in alien invasion stories up to that date, and essentially produced a ‘best of' compilation. It was one of the most successful miniseries ever, and paved the way for a sequel miniseries,
V: The Final Battle
, a
V: The Series
of 19 episodes, and a two-season remake in 2010–11.

THE X-FILES
(1993–2002): This series about FBI agents wasn't solely an invasion story, as it covered various other types of paranormal, science fiction, and horror genre storylines, but it is perhaps best remembered for its ongoing story arcs regarding aliens planning to invade the Earth and colonize it.

There seemed to be several different types of aliens in the show, with different plans for invasion: there were Greys abducting people, a life form in the form of a viscous black oil which possessed people, cloned aliens who intended to colonize the planet with other clones, aliens who may have engineered humanity to be their invaders by proxy, and so on. The end result was a series that often featured stories involving the various different tropes of alien invasion, but in a self-contradictory way that didn't quite hold together.

Nevertheless, many episodes are valuable and entertaining depictions of stealthy invasion plans and historical UFO reports.

BUSTING THE BLOCK

Even outside the home, wandering the streets of Earth's cities, there is no escape from invading aliens, who are regular gatecrashers in the world's cinemas. Ten movie invasions worthy of note include the following:

EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS
(1956): A scientist working on a satellite launching programme is concerned by both the number of his satellites which are disappearing, and by being buzzed in his car by a UFO. It turns out that the UFOs are responsible for destroying the satellites, which they thought were attacks upon them. After two aliens are killed by gunfire, a fleet of flying saucers attack the Earth and begin destroying major landmarks…

This movie is important in many ways. The effects were done by the late Ray Harryhausen, better known for mythologically-based stop-motion monsters, while the invaders' tactics and science are well thought-out and prescient. Their ships, for example, use magnetic fields to fly, and relativistic time dilation at near-
c
speeds is used. They use the ability to induce solar flares as weapons to disable terrestrial communications, they have what we would now call Wikipedia.

Contemporary UFO lore is also present and correct, as is the influence of Wells's book, in the form of heat rays that disintegrate enemies and vehicles. Overall, this is a seminal alien invasion work.

INVADERS FROM MARS
(1953): This is a surrealist effort that prefigures a lot of later alien invasions on screen. It features a lead character who sees the aliens but isn't believed, humans abducted and put under alien control (well before this began to be claimed by people in real life), and so on. As with
War of the Worlds
, the aliens are Martians, and have battles with military (in extensive and excessive stock footage).

The movie is visually striking and memorable, for all its lack of budget, even with its appalling ‘it was all a dream' ending. It does succeed in building a disturbing mood and some effective tension, while the aliens display good sense for a unit of limited force by concealing themselves and making use of controlled human proxies. Once seen, it is not forgotten.

A remake was produced in 1986, but this was largely played for laughs, and didn't have the sense to leave out the silly ending.

WAR OF THE WORLDS
(1953): The first film version of Wells's novel is easily the best, though Jeff Wayne's musical version is the best adaptation overall. In the movie, the main character is not a journalist and observer, but a scientist seeking to defeat the invaders. Although the plotline is a loose adaptation, and many elements changed from the novel, this film does manage to convey the
mood
and feel of the novel, by cherry-picking elements and vignettes to keep, and building a straightforward defend-against-alien-invaders story around them.

As in the novel, the Martians crash-land their vessels on Earth, fight the (contemporary US) army, harvest humans, and are defeated by microbial life. There is no mention of the Red Weed, however, and the film lacks the anti-colonialist and secularist subtexts.

There have been several remakes, ranging from low-budget amateur adaptations of the novel, to Spielberg's horribly misjudged 2005 version, which manages not to actually show the battles of the war. (The clue's in the name, guys.)

The 1990s also saw a TV sequel series, which ran for two seasons.

INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS
(1956): Don Siegel's film version of Jack Finney's novel is a slow-boiling film noir kind of alien invasion, with a steadily increasing atmosphere of strangeness and paranoia, and is well worth viewing. The pod people aliens themselves are perhaps best thought of as a form of biological weapon or a force of nature – because rather than colonizing the Earth for themselves, they would all die off and leave the planet ripe for re-occupation – and it's interesting to speculate on whether there was another species of alien masterminds behind it all.

The story and its atmosphere have been so definitive that there have been many remakes, both officially and unofficially. Officially acknowledged remakes are the grittier 1978 version under the same title,
Body Snatchers
(1993), and
The Invasion
(2007). Unofficial, or at least unacknowledged, remakes include
The Faculty
(1998).

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS
(1968): This is actually intended as a special anniversary movie for Toho's kaiju series, as it was the 20th movie in the series, which is why it includes so many of the monsters: Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and seven others. It is, however, still an alien invasion movie.

In this film, the invading Kilaak race take control of the Earth's giant monsters, and use them to attack cities around the world. It makes sense that the Kilaaks would need to use local power to conduct their attack, as they only have one ship conducting their campaign.

As alien invasion movies go, this one has more big-budget destruction than any other, until perhaps
Independence Day
, as Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, New York, Paris and London all get stomped on and torn apart.

SUPERMAN II
(1980): Although this isn't obviously recognizable as an alien invasion movie, it absolutely is one, and takes a slightly different approach than usual by depicting a successful conquest of the Earth by a tiny group who have huge innate powers rather than strategy or military strength– the three Kryptonian individuals, General Zod, Non, and Ursa.

In reality, however, it should be noted that their invasion is not planned in advance, and is basically an opportunist raid for personal gratification, with no real objective clearly visible. In this respect, it actually shares a certain mood with the invaders of
Mars Attacks!

INDEPENDENCE DAY
(1996): Like the TV miniseries
V
before it, this large-scale SF disaster movie basically takes many tropes and elements from prior alien invasion books, TV shows, and movies. This straightforward invasion action/disaster movie takes the motherships-over-cities from
V
, the vulnerability to a type of virus from the perception of
War of the Worlds
, the destruction of major landmarks from
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
, and so on and so forth, and makes an entertaining spectacle out of it all.

Oddly, though, rather than launching a fashion for a revived sub-genre of alien invasion movies, this actually sparked a fashion for disaster movies in which major – especially US – cities are destroyed in glorious and realistic detail.

It is still, however, the perfect go-to movie for alien invasion fun.

MARS ATTACKS!
(1996): Based on the trading card series, this movie depicts an alien military attack with sheer joy of destruction for recreational purposes as the objective, rather than taking over a world for resources or living space.

DISTRICT 9
(2009): Not strictly an invasion movie – as the aliens are stranded refugees rather than invaders – but still a very believable story of what happens when there is a sizeable alien population on Earth, and the tensions that result. In many ways it is comparable to the movie and TV series
Alien Nation
, but that franchise is more simply a buddy–cop story with an alien.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
(2011): In a change to the usual type of film in which scientists and heroes work out a way to send the alien invaders packing, this is a grittier effort showing the life of the ordinary front-line soldier in a battle to defend the Earth from invasion. As more of a vignette rather than the complete story of an invasion from attack to final repulsion of the enemy, this is a nice change of view.

YOU WIN OR YOU DIE

Ordinary humans of all ages can, of course, practice their skills at repelling alien invaders at any time.

SPACE INVADERS
(1978): The original alien invasion video game basically invented video gaming. It was a simple yet addictive set-up, which is still popular on many consoles and smartphones today. In essence, the player controls a little tank at the bottom of the screen, sheltering under houses in order to shoot at waves of descending alien invaders who are dropping bombs. The aliens get faster as they descend.

The game was surprisingly addictive, perhaps due to the instinctive game play, but perhaps also due to the simple but very distinctive music/sound effect.

X-COM: ENEMY UNKNOWN
(1994): This is a strategy game about defending the Earth from aliens who are abducting humans, and has both a larger map-based strategy mode, and a closer squad-based tactical simulation mode.

The game spawned several sequels, with varying types of game play, from arcade flight simulation to first-person shooter, and is currently being relaunched for today's consoles. The original is still the best, though.

DUKE NUKEM 3D
(1995): A rude, crude, and surprisingly funny foul-mouthed first-person shooter in which the player character roams around various city and desert settings, eventually going to space, in his quest to save the world from aliens who have invaded in order to steal women.

Despite being famous for its immature humour, there are many interesting elements to its alien invasion theme: different types of aliens use sensible equipment like jetpacks and invisibility cloaks. There are different aliens adapted to different environments, and also there are visual, auditory, and plot references to many different SF franchises, including the
Alien
series.

HALF-LIFE
(1998): The Half-Life series has the player-character, a physicist named Gordon Freeman, fighting against aliens who invaded through a dimensional portal that had been accidentally created between Earth and their world during an experiment at a secret military research facility. Several different alien races invaded through the portal, and in the sequel,
Half-Life 2
, others turn out to have come in ships in the interim.

This series covers many bases, from dimensional transference, insectoid aliens, one set of invaders joining forces with humanity, giant tripod walking machines, resource-stripping of the planet, parasitic aliens, enslavement of zombified humans... It has pretty much everything.

DESTROY ALL HUMANS
(2005): Yes, you get to be a Grey alien who can roam around abducting humans, throwing cows around the place, and blowing up stuff on Earth. All of which is tremendous fun.

RESISTANCE: FALL OF MAN
(2006): Like the
Worldwar
book series, this game presents an alternate history in which an infectious telepathic gestalt alien begins to invade Earth during the Second World War. It is unclear whether the Chimaera are extraterrestrials, extradimensional, or created by human experimentation, but they are clearly an alien invader.

AUTHOR: DAVID MCINTEE

David A McIntee has written many tie-in novels in such franchises as
Doctor Who, Star Trek, Final Destination
and
Space 1999
. He has also written comics adapting the work of Ray Harryhausen, William Shatner and John Saul. He has been a regular features contributor to many genre media magazines, and has written academic studies about the
Aliens
and
Predator
series,
Blakes 7
, and others. He has also run reenactment demos of Ancient Egyptian events.

BOOK: We Will Destroy Your Planet
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